Monday, September 11, 2006

Its funny. How can someone be a prolific, well loved, innovative author and yet be such a very bad writer?

I've been reading Foundation by Isaac Asimov and though I went in with high hopes and great expectations I'm ending up disappointed.

As with everything I've read so far by Aismov, the concept is an very interesting one and the plot has many witty twists and turns but the execution of it all is carried out so poorly that the ideas which should be captivating, instead end up being dull when read.

Asimov's writing puts me in mind of cold steel, uncomfortable medical procedures, and stern faces...

I suppose I'm saying his writing is to me... robotic.

Lifeless. Lacking in warmth.

Also, where are the women???

I'm 25 pages from the conclusion of the first Foundation book and with every chapter a new cast of characters arrive (since the book transitions from generation to generation) but of those, all have been men!*

How can you write an entire book without a single woman character? Not even the wife of a main character or a secretary!*

* * *

"In 1940, Asimov's humans were stripped-down masculine portraits of Americans from 1940, and they still are. His robots were tin cans with speedlines like an old Studebaker, and still are; the Robot tales depended on an increasingly unworkable distinction between movable and unmovable artificial intelligences, and still do. In the Asimov universe, because it was conceived a long time ago, and because its author abhors confusion, there are no computers whose impact is worth noting, no social complexities, no genetic engineering, aliens, arcologies, multiverses, clones, sin or sex; his heroes... feel no pressure of information, raw or cooked, as the simplest of us do today; they suffer no deformation from the winds of the Asimov future, because it is so deeply and strikingly orderly."

(from the 1985 Washington Post)

*Actually, since writing this a woman has appeared for all of three paragraphs. She is simpering and silly, the trophy wife of a monarch. She does nothing for the plot.
*And the same men! Different names but the same men - simply reincarnated over and over with different positions and labels but the same attitudes and manner of speaking.
(Of course, since this is the Foundation series we're talking about I guess it could be argued that Asimov did this on purpose to show how his whole psychohistory theory can be played out over a milennia. Strong, similar leaders arise from every generation, shaping history as predicted by Hari Seldon.)


Elliot said...

Well, that was really the problem with much of early SF. Content over style, and a pretty narrow view of the world.
Can't say I ever enjoyed Asimov's writing - ideas, OK. Writing, bleh.

Anactoria said...

I want to read some Anthony whatshisname... The guy who wrote the original story behind A Clockwork Orange...